updated 7/14/2005 10:14:55 AM ET 2005-07-14T14:14:55

Guest: Pam Bondi, Lisa Wayne, Steve Emerson, Lincoln Gomez, Henry Bruen, Frank Bowman

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Coming up, breaking news.  Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist rushed to the hospital. 

And convicted sex offender Joseph Duncan allegedly bragged to eight-year-old Shasta Groene about how he killed her mother and brother.  This guy's the worst of the worst and yet he was released from prison.  Isn't there a way to keep a guy like this behind bars evening after his sentence is over?

Plus, tomorrow judges in Aruba will decide whether the only suspect in custody in connection with Natalee Holloway's disappearance will go free.  We've got details about the new evidence judges are considering.

And the CEO responsible for the biggest corporate fraud in U.S. history sentenced to 25 years in prison.  Now, Bernie Ebbers may die behind bars.  The only witness to testify today joins us to talk about how he lost it all thanks to Ebbers.  The program about justice starts now. 

Hi, everyone.

First up on the docket, in Washington, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist is back in the hospital.  He's been battling thyroid cancer since last year.  Many wondering whether he will be the second justice to retire this summer.  MSNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent Norah O'Donnell has the latest.

Norah, so what do we know about the Chief Justice's condition?

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, a court official telling MSNBC that Chief Justice Rehnquist was admitted to the hospital last night for observation.  He has a fever.  And officials say they do not expect that this is going to be serious and that he could be released in the next couple of days.  He was taken by an ambulance last night from his home to a nearby hospital.  You know, this is usually the scene we see every morning.  We've been staking him out, if you will, outside his house.  We see him walking with his agents to his car and he usually goes to work at the Supreme Court. 

Well, this morning, we saw something very different and that gave us the first heads up that something may be wrong.  We saw his agent just carrying his bag and his cane and some clothes, but no Rehnquist.  So we followed up with the Supreme Court and learned that, in fact, Rehnquist had been admitted to the hospital, has a fever.  Officials saying they don't think that this is serious.  He's been hospitalized once before this year.  As we know, he has thyroid cancer.  The court has not said much about his health, but again, they do expect him to be released from the hospital in the next couple of days.  That's the indication we have at this point. 


ABRAMS:  And we should point out, Senator Arlen Specter, is also suffering from cancer,  Hodgkin's, made a comment today, did he not, about what this could mean?

O'DONNELL:  Right.  And he said, don't read too much into it, essentially.  That people get ill when they're suffering from cancer.  They get fevers.  That's part of trying to recover from cancer, so don't read to much into it.  It's interesting because the chairman of the judiciary, Senator Specter, has also said, he doesn't think Rehnquist will retire.  That as someone who is suffering from cancer himself, it helps to try and get up every day and go to work.  It's good to keep going. And so he doesn't think Rehnquist will retire.  But they said in the Senate, they could be ready to have two vacancies at the same time to hold hearings late this Summer. 

ABRAMS:  Norah O'Donnell, thanks very much. 

O'DONNELL:  It's my pleasure

ABRAMS:  Now to Idaho.  Awful new details about eight and nine-year-old Shasta and Dylan Groene's ordeal, what happened inside the house the night they were kidnapped and three others were left for dead.  It's all on tape. 

Joseph Duncan, charged with kidnapping, with the intent to molest the kids, appeared in court again today by video to be charged with murder.  Three more counts of kidnapping, three counts of murder for killing Shasta and Dylan's mother Brenda, their 13-year-old brother Slade and their mother's boyfriend Mark McKenzie.  Nine-year-old Dylan's remains were identified earlier this week.  Duncan hasn't the been charged with his murder yet. 

The current charges came after a hearing yesterday.  A police detective testified about what Shasta told him about the night of the murders.  Shasta said she was sleeping in her bed when her mother suddenly came into the room, told her to go to the living room.  Here's what Shasta said happened from there. 


DETECTIVE BRAD MASKELL:  Shasta saw a male adult holding a firearm as her mother was asking her to go to the living room.  She went out to the living room, escorted by her mother and the man with the gun.  She said that her mother gave her instructions to cooperate with the man, to do whatever he said to do.  She said that she noticed that Mark McKenzie was tied up with zip ties on the floor of the residence.  She also noticed that Slade, her older brother, was also tied and lying in the living room area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What did Shasta say happened to she and Dylan after they were bound with those zip ties?

MASKELL:  Shasta described that she and her brother Dylan were individually carried out the back door of the residence and then laid in the grass out on the east side of the residence out by the swings.  She did describe Slade coming out to the backyard area where she and Dylan laid and described him as bleeding very, very heavily from the area of his head.  Shasta described her and Dylan trying to get Slade's attention in an attempt to get him to untie them.  But she described him as acting retarded and didn't seem to know where they were at and then wandering away. 

Shasta described when the man she knew as Jet entered that house, she described hearing Mark McKenzie cry out, “ow! ow!”  Several times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did she say that Mr. Duncan said happened to Mr. 

McKenzie, Mrs.  Groene and to Slade Groene?

MASKELL:  Specific to the event, Mr. Duncan actually showed Shasta a hammer, a rather large hammer that he held up and he explained to her that that item was what he used.


ABRAMS:  What he used to eventually kill them.  This wasn't Duncan's first brush with the law.  He was on the run after being charged in Minnesota, accused of molesting a child there, and he had served almost two decades in Washington state for molesting violently another boy.

So why was he out?  Well, the answer is, he served his time, and nothing could be done legally to keep them confined.  The question is, is it time to change that? 

Now here's a little history of his background.  In 1980, after being arrested for first degree rape, Duncan's committed to a state hospital to determine if he's a sexual psychopath.  Twenty-two months later, treatment terminated because Duncan is found not amenable to further treatment.

1982, a state hospital discharge letter says Duncan is not safe to be at large and that he continues to fit the definition of a sexual psychopath.  1991, diagnosed with sexual sadism.  The evaluator warns that Duncan's risk for sexual aggression and violence remains high. 

1999, a sex offender psychological evaluation notes Duncan's reoffense and risk for violence to be at a medium level.  Just a year later, another evaluation concludes there would appear to be insufficient evidence to indicate that Duncan meets the criteria for civil commitment and so Duncan is released as a level three sex offender, no supervision requirements. 

Now only 17 states in the U.S. have laws that allow for confinement of sexually violent predators after they served their time.  Washington state is one of them but he apparently slipped through.

My take, I believe when someone has this sort of history that this guy had, there should be a way to keep him locked up, particularly after he was arrested again in Minnesota.  Why not presume he gets no bail.  Why not presume he's just too great a threat to society. 

I'm joined now by Pam Bondi, a prosecutor in Florida, one of the states that allows for civil commitment of sexually violent predators.  And Criminal Defense Attorney Lisa Wayne.

Thanks very much to both of you.

All right, Pam, let me start with you.  How do we set up - let's create, you and I, a system right now where we are going to keep these guys behind bars.  What do we need to do now?  I mean, people can sit there and blame this judge for releasing him on bail, et cetera.  Bottom line is, that wouldn't have helped.  They could have - they could have increased the bail to $150,000, as opposed to $15,000, this guy still would have gotten out.  The problem is the law.  How do we change it?

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Well, Dan, Florida has enacted a 1999 law called the Jimmy Rice Law.  And if every state adopted a similar law, it would not be a bad thing, let me tell you.  The Jimmy Rice Law is enacted after a young - it was after a young boy in South Florida who was murdered and had been violently raped by a sex offender.  And what it does, Dan, is it allows for civil commitment of a sex offender.  And the great thing about this law is, a defend doesn't have to be in prison for a sex offense.  He ask have a violent sexual offense in his past, like Duncan, and he can currently be in prison even on a burglary.  And if . . .

ABRAMS:  What is civil commitment?

BONDI:  Civil commitment means a treatment facility for sexual offenders who are deemed by the court to be likely to reoffend in a sexual manner. 

ABRAMS:  But with bars?  I mean, they can't leave, right?  I mean you say it's a treatment facility but the bottom line is, it's a treatment facility that they can't leave, right?

BONDI:  They cannot leave.  It's a secure treatment facility with - it's similar to a prison.  It has fences and guards and it's a secure facility.  And, Dan, people like this need to be in a secured facility. 

ABRAMS:  I got - I have no problem with that. 

Lisa Wayne, do you have a problem with that?

LISA WAYNE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well I think from the position of a defense attorney, if you're working within the law, the purpose of being punished and being incarcerated is you're supposed to be receiving treatment.  Mental health facilities are for only treatment, not detention.  And so you're talking about two different things.  Either you need to work within the justice system . . .

ABRAMS:  Well let's talk about - but talk about changing the law.  I mean I'm talking about a new . . .


ABRAMS:  I'm asking - I asked Pam, let's create a system and, look, this is what they do in Florida.  But why not just say, OK, we're going to make sure it's both.  We're going to basically force treatment on them and we're going to make sure that they stay there. 

WAYNE:  Well, I think the problem is that your first grouping all sex offenders together and there is an indication that all sex offenders can be . . .

ABRAMS:  No.  Only people who are a threat to society. 

WAYNE:  No, no.  But - well, no, because we're saying sex offender . . .

ABRAMS:  No, I'm not.

WAYNE:  Which is a pretty large umbrella.  But if you're talking about the worst . . .

ABRAMS:  I'm saying only people who are a threat to - only the people

who continue to be a threat to society.  Not anyone - not a 18-year-old

who had sex with a 16-year-old in his high school class and as a result

·         I'm not talking about them.  I'm talking about the violent sex offenders who remain a threat to society. 

WAYNE:  Well, those guys who remain a threat to society then you have to work within the state statutes, Dan.  And what most states have done is that those people are looking at life sentences.  They're incarcerated.  Mental health facilities are treatment facilities, not for purposes of incarceration.  And the problem you have is, those are facilities - mental health facilities are completely over burdened and over taxed at this point.  So you're telling them, now you're going to hold for us those people we can't deal with in the criminal justice system.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  So you're OK then - you're OK with them just getting a life sentence then, right, I mean because I thought that if I said that, that you'd go crazy and say, wait a second, that's disproportionate.  I'm trying to think about something in-between because I'm not entirely opposed to a life sentence if you commit a violent sex offense on a child.

WAYNE:  And I think what I'm trying to say to you, Dan, is that there are different sex offenders.  Those who have the history that appears to have, like Mr. Duncan, clearly, under the law, whether they're a sex offender or just simply a violent criminal, they need to get larger sentences.  I mean, defense attorneys don't stand for the proposition that we don't believe violent people should be incarcerated but it should be fairly done.

ABRAMS:  Some do.  You don't.  You don't, but some do.

WAYNE:  It should be fairly done.

ABRAMS:  No, you don't because, I mean, you're a rational defense attorney but some actually do stand for the position that, you know, it's too long a sentence and we have to assume everyone can be rehabilitated.  I don't make that assumption that everyone can be rehabilitated because you listen to this guy and here's the detective again.  Detective Brad Maskell talking more about what Shasta said happened. 


MASKELL:  He told her that he was actually out driving around looking for kids to kidnap.  He described to her as how he was driving by, glanced over at the Wolf Lodge property and saw her playing in the yard with her brother and noticed that she was wearing her bathing suit.  And he told her that he surveilled the property for anywhere from two to three days.  He described to her how he would actually surveille from a distance.  Late at night, in the dark, he would creep up to the home and peer inside the window.


ABRAMS:  Yes, he apparently used night-goggle glasses, Pam

BONDI:  Oh, Dan, it's horrible.  And you know, Dan, what the experts tell us is that you cannot rehabilitate a sexual offender.  The experts tell us you can only educate them to minimize the potential for them reoffending.  And again, what this civil commitment law does is, it's not automatic.  Experts have to evaluate the offender to show that he is a violent sexual offender and is likely to reoffend in a sexual way.  Look at Duncan.  He was out on bond and look what this guy did.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Yes.  The minute he was arrested again . . .

BONDI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  I'm going to get, Lisa, the final word on this.  But, Lisa, do you agree that after he served, you know whatever it was, 10, 12, 15 years for committing a sexual offense, a violent one, then he's arrested again for molesting a child, do you have any problem with creating a law that says no bail?

WAYNE:  No, I don't, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.

WAYNE:  And you know what I think is that you've got to look at here is, someone dropped the ball and it seems to me the flags where all there.  And any judge is only as good as the information he's provided. 

ABRAMS:  No, that's right.

WAYNE:  It didn't seem to me that they provided him the information.  And frankly, it sounds like the prosecutors knew about this and they didn't do anything.

ABRAMS:  Well, somebody may have messed up but the problem was the law.  We've got to change it.  We've got to presume no bail in cases like this. 

Pam Bondi, Lisa Wayne, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, police raid another house in connection with the London bombings.  New details about the four suspected suicide bombers, leading many to ask, are others lurking here at home.

And could this be Joran van der Sloot's last night in jail.  A judges is deciding whether to release the only suspect in connection with Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba.  Coming up.


CHERYL CASONE:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes.  I'm Cheryl Casone. Hello there.

NASA says the space shuttle Discovery won't be launched before Saturday at the earliest.  Officials say they'll know more after a management meeting at noon tomorrow.  Today's launch was scrubbed with less than two hours to go because of a faulty fuel tank sensor.  Engineers had encountered problems with the same system during a launch pad test in April and NASA was not able to track down the precise cause. 

And in Iraq, a suicide car bomber exploded next to U.S. troops handing out candy and toys in Baghdad.  Officials say up to 27 people were killed, including 18 children and teenagers and one American soldier. 

Those are your headlines right now.  We're going to take you back to Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS:  British anti-terror police are carrying out new raids tonight in the town of Ayelsbury north of London.  The latest development in what's become the largest investigation in their history.  Meanwhile, many Americans may be looking over their shoulder and wondering, could suicide bombers be waiting to strike here.  As far as we know, no one suspected that the four British bombers had any connection to terror until investigators began digging into the four bombing sites in London.  We're going to go back to that in a minute.  First, more on the investigation from NBC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers. 


LISA MYERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, (voice over):  Law enforcement sources tell NBC News that the British are now looking for a fifth man seen on a surveillance tape with the four bombers.  Also intelligence sources say the British have sent fingerprints to the United States taken from bomb materials believed to belong to the bomb maker. 

This morning, the car in which police sources say explosives were found was hauled away and searchers continued in an area north of London.  Police sources say they have positively I.D.'d the body of the fourth bombers.  All four of the suspected suicide bombers are British-born and of Pakistani descent, from a neighborhood known for extremism. 

In an exclusive interview, a neighbor who did not want to be identified recalls a conversation with this bomber, 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer, who's father runs a fish and chips shop.  Neighbors said at least two of the bombers had been oversees for what they claimed were religious pilgrimages.  But who recruited and indoctrinated them and provided the bomb making expertise?


be at least one or perhaps more people, maybe from abroad, who have

taken an active role in organizing and the execution of this particular


MYERS:  British authorities say they now must assume there are other young men here prepared to engage in suicide operations. 

Back to you. 


ABRAMS:  All right, thanks, Lisa. 

And what about the other young men who allegedly launched those suicide bombings last week.   Hasib Hussain was just 19-years-old.  Apparently a bit of a hell-raiser as a kid.  Relatives say the turned very religious two years ago.  He apparently set off the bomb on the double-decker bus nearly an hour after the subway blast. 

And Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, married with an eight-month-old daughter.  Worked with disabled kids in school.  Liked to go to the gym. Didn't talk about religion.  Police say he set off the subway bomb near the Edgware Road station. 

British's press association say police have also identified the fourth bomber but are withholding that information for now.  Now one of these guys was apparently born in Pakistan and the others are believed to have been homegrown. 

Steve Emerson, a terrorism analyst, joins us now.

All right, Steve, so homegrown, that makes it particularly scary.  Give

us a sense here.  I mean right after 9/11 we kept hearing, oh, there are

terror cells, there are terror cells.  But the bottom line is there's no

·         that there are people who are being watched in this country.  Is there any sense of how many terrorists or even homegrown terrorists there may be in this country now?

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM ANALYST:  You know, Dan, that's an impossible question to answer because, unfortunately, we don't know until after the fact, in terms of an actual terrorist, as evidence by the profile of these young Muslims in Britain.  They didn't evince any inclination, at least externally, that they would be prepared to carry out terrorism.  Obviously something happened that was kept from their - from the public view and they were able to deceive others while they were actually training, preparing for jihad.

Today, in the northern - in the eastern district of Virginia, Dan, Ali al-Timimi was sentenced to life imprisonment for a conviction in conspiring to wage war against the United States.  He was born in the United States.  He was a spiritual lead leader of a major mosque in Northern Virginia And he was the head of a group called the Paint Ball Jihad group, young men who were convicted of waging - of trying to wage jihad against the United States, either overseas or here in the United States itself.

ABRAMS:  And there have been a number of domestic terror cases in Lodi, in New York, Lackawanna, Fredericksburg and Portland.  In all these areas.  But are these all cases - or are any of these cases where people were arrested who you think were actually going to attack here in the United States?

EMERSON:  None of them were charged with the actual - with the decision - with the premeditated decision to attack.  They were all arrested in the “the pre-cell stage.”  But the problem, Dan, is, that once you wait to that stage in which they are about to act, then you risk what happened in London.  And that's why the U.S. has been very aggressive in trying to basically root out terror cells before they are in that sleeper cell stage.  But the clear pattern of facts is that all of these cities that you mentioned are where cells of people willing to carry out jihad, probably overseas.  But if you're willing to carry out jihad overseas, Dan, you're willing to carry it out in the United States. 

That's the danger

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And the bottom line is, anyone who went to a bin Laden camp, who's in the United States, it's scary, I think, to most of us.  And so, you know, that in and of itself, while maybe not a crime in and of itself is some scary stuff. 

Steve Emerson, thanks a lot. 


ABRAMS:  Now the latest in the story of the missing Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway.  At this time tomorrow, the prosecution's lead suspect could be free.  Tomorrow afternoon, three judges will announce a decision as to whether to release Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot, the only person in custody in connection with the case.  They'll also decide if brothers Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, who were arrested with Joran and were released last week, will be re-arrested.  And what about this new evidence that we hear about presented at today's hearing. 

Joining me now with the latest, NBC's Michelle Kosinski. 

Michelle, what do you know about what was presented to the judges yesterday?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, what we were hearing was sort of tantalizing.  It was put out there as new developments, new evidence by the prosecution that would indicate that they were furthering their case before this court of appeals. 

But here's the catch.  In this system, prosecutors were not required to put out any new evidence.  This is simply appeals court judges reviewing the exact same evidence that the lower court had.  But the prosecutors were required to put out anything new that they were able to get. 

So to make that clear, they didn't have to present anything new but if they had something new, then they have to present it.  So this new evidence which we know now is in the form of witness statements, some new witness statements in the case, it's out there but it doesn't necessarily benefit the prosecution's case.  They could be neutral.  They could be things that were already know, but they had to present it. 

And that's what we're hearing from all of the attorneys.  And that's really what we rely on to get our information, the attorneys for all three of these boys. 

ABRAMS:  We don't - I was going to say - sorry to interrupt.

KOSINSKI:  Go ahead.

ABRAMS:  We don't know anything about what these witness statements say, right?

KOSINSKI:  Not at all.  But here's what we do know from those attorneys.  They all say, hey, it doesn't pertain to my client, all across the board, and it's not anything substantial to the case.  So it could be neutral.  But then again, they want to protect their client.  So they're saying, well, my client wasn't involved and, you know, whatever was revealed by those statements. 

One attorney was very coy when we asked, well, does it pertain to any of the other suspects in this case.  Didn't want to answer that question and most questions about that evidence, they don't want to answer because they're really not supposed to.  All of this, remember, is behind closed doors. 

So there is new evidence out there, we just don't know how important it will be to prosecutors, if important at all. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Michelle Kosinski, thanks a lot. 

All right.  So coming up, how might any new evidence affect the chances that van der Sloot will be release?  Does he have really a shot of getting out tomorrow?  I mean, tomorrow at this time we're going to know.  An Aruban attorney joins us next.

And later, WorldCom's CEO Bernie Ebbers sentenced to 25 years behind bars for his involvement in the largest corporate fraud case in U.S.  history.  We're going to talk to one of his former employees who lost everything.  He testified today against his former boss.  He's pleased with today's sentence.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a big day in Aruba tomorrow.  Will the chief suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway go free.  We'll talk to an Aruban lawyer about what might happen.  First, the headlines.

CASONE:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes.  I'm Cheryl Casone.

Hello, everyone. 

With top aid Karl Rove standing right behind him, President Bush said he'll withhold judgment about Rove's involvement in leaking an undercover CIA officer's name.  That until a federal criminal investigation is complete.  Later the White House said the president was ready to express his confidence in Rove but reporters never asked the question. 

Meanwhile, “Time” magazine reporter Matthew Cooper testified before the grand jury investigating the leak.  Cooper refused to give details after his two-and-a-half hour appearance. He had faced jail for refusing to reveal his source for a story identifying the CIA officer.  But he agreed to do so after the confidentiality agreement was waived by Rove. 

And Disney World reopened its Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride a day after a British girl almost died after riding it.  She remains in critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest.  Last month a four year old boy died after riding another Disney World thrill ride.

You're up to date right now.  Back to THE ABRAMS REPORT.

ABRAMS:  We're back with more on the Aruban investigation into Alabama teen Natalee Holloway's disappearance.  Tomorrow, we expect to hear the decision of three appeals court judges who, as we speak, are considering whether to release lead suspect Joran van der Sloot, and maybe even re-arrest brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. 

Joining me now is Aruban Attorney Lincoln Gomez. 

Lincoln, thanks for coming back on the program. 

All right, let's take these one-by-one.  Let's start with the issue of Joran van der Sloot.  His lawyer appealing, saying that he should be released.  That the lower court judge got it wrong by ordering that he remain detained for another 60 days.  Is it a long-shot argument from his attorneys?

LINCOLN GOMEZ, ARUBAN ATTORNEY:  Well, you know, it's the same facts

being presented to this time a three-judge panel.  And it could go

either way.  This three-judge panel may very well find that indeed the

evident is too thin and could then order the release of Joran van der


ABRAMS:  How significant is it that they're looking at new witness statements?

GOMEZ:  Well, again, we don't know the contents of those statements.  But, you know, the question is, are they really incriminating towards, in this case, Joran van der Sloot.  If they're not, then they may not have that big of an impact in the decision-making process.

ABRAMS:  What about the Kalpoe brothers?  The prosecutors arguing that the lower court judge made a mistake in releasing them.  Tough argument for prosecutors to make to say re-arrest them?

GOMEZ:  Well, it's tough to send somebody back in once they've been released.  But, again, it's the same factors being presented and it could go, again, either way.  Statistically speaking, about 90 percent of these type of appeals are just confirmed by the appellant court.  So the overturn ratio, it's about 10 percent here.  So there's not a lot of chance of dramatic changes there tomorrow.

ABRAMS:  Is it higher one way or the other?  Meaning, is it generally statistically harder to get someone rearrested than it is to have someone freed?

GOMEZ:  No, once the first judge has gone through it and has taken a decision, only in 10 percent of the times, either way, that decision will be reversed.  And if you go back and look at, for instance, the Joran van der Sloot case, compared to the Kalpoe brothers, there the evidence was deemed too thin in the part of the Kalpoe brothers.  As far as Joran van der Sloot, the question is, what is still holding him there.  And one possible explanation for that is the risk of collusion.

ABRAMS:  Judges are human beings.  We like to think that they only look at the law but there's always . . .

GOMEZ:  We would like to think that.

ABRAMS:  Yes, there's always a level of discretion that comes into this.  How do you think that the profile of this case, the fact that the world is watching, could impact these judges in terms of making them more or less likely to free someone or re-arrest someone?  Do you think it's going to make them more prone in being tough in the sense of keep van der Sloot behind bars and maybe even re-arresting the Kalpoe brothers?

GOMEZ:  I think - I think the scrutiny that they're facing and the pressure they're under to make sure, knowing that the world is watching, to make the right decision.  To make a conscious decision and to make a good decision, regardless of whether or not, you know, people from different sides may like that decision. 

ABRAMS:  Hey, Lincoln, can lawyers in - do lawyers in Aruba go to work with polo shirts on?  I love that idea if they do.

GOMEZ:  Well, it's nice and fresh here. 

ABRAMS:  Thanks for coming back.  We appreciate it. 

GOMEZ:  Bye-bye.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the toughest sentence yet for a former CEO.  This man found guilty.  Largest corporate fraud in U.S. history.  We're going to talk to a former employee who lost everything and testified today against Ebbers.  And why does it seem that corporate criminals are getting much tougher sentences today than even 15 years ago? 

Plus, I said Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, now deserves an apology from Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  Woo, did we get strong letters on this one, on both side of the case.  Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a former employee of WorldCom and of the CEO Bernie Ebbers, joins us.  He's lost everything, his life savings.  Says he still can't get a job.  He was the only witness to testify today at Ebbers' sentencing.  Coming up.


CASONE:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes.  I'm Cheryl Casone. 

Hello there.

NASA officials say the space shuttle Discovery won't be launched until Saturday at the earliest.  They say they may know more tomorrow.  A faulty fuel sensor forced them to scrub today's panned launch less than two hours before liftoff. 

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced an overhaul of his department. He revealed plans to centralize his agency's terror analysis, put a higher priority on bioterrorism and step up detection systems in mass transit.

And Tropical Storm Emily is now approaching the Eastern Caribbean and is expected to grow into a hurricane along the way.  Barbados could feel the first effect.  Emily could hit the U.S. early next week. 

Those are your headlines.  I'm Cheryl Casone.  Back to Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS:  He will probably be remembered as the infamous CEO who presided over the largest corporate fraud in U.S. history.  Now Bernie Ebbers, former head of WorldCom, will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.  A judge sentenced him to 25 years today for the $11 billion accounting fraud that let to his company's collapse in 2002.  Ebbers won't be eligible for release until he is 85.  According to the sentencing guidelines, he could have gotten 30 years, maybe more.  The judge, though, cut down the term by five years after considering factors like charitable contributions that Ebbers had made to the community.  His attorney, at times, in tears as he begged the judge for leniency for his client. 


REID WEINGARTEN, BERNIE EBBERS' ATTORNEY:  I'm extremely disappointed.  I've always believed in Bernie Ebbers' innocents.  I don't believe he's innocent any less today.  So I was very upset and am very up upset.  We believe we have a number of very meritorious appellant issues.


ABRAMS:  I will talk about why sentences for corporate criminals have suddenly gotten so tough in a minute.  But first, one witness allowed to make a victim's impact statement before Bernie Ebbers was sentenced.  Henry J.  Bruen worked for WorldCom.  He was laid off in 2003.  Says he lost all of his savings, medical benefits, retirement funds because of the fraud, to the tune of $800,000.  He joins me now. 

Thanks a lot for coming in.  We appreciate it. 

HENRY J. BRUEN, FORMER WORLDCOM EMPLOYEE:  Thank you, Dan, for having me

ABRAMS:  So how did it feel to be sitting there testifying against the former king puba, who you think now is responsible for your life the way it's become?

BRUEN:  Well, I think, Dan, that it felt goods to the extent that at

least this sentence in the amount of time that he's been given, 25

years, I think sends a signal that this time type of behavior is not

really accepted in corporate America

ABRAMS:  Were you angry?  I mean, you know, you're sitting there and this is the guy who is presumably responsible for what you believe is the demise of your financial life. 

BRUEN:  Not at him personally.  I was angry while I was working for WorldCom.  I would say the six months after the fraud because I had to deal with combating what was in the newspaper with my customers every single day, besides having reporters, like yourself, all the network reporters outside of our officers at 100 Park Avenue trying to get comments from employees going back and forth every single day.  So I think, at that point in time, I was angry.  But I'm not angry anymore because that time is long gone.

ABRAMS:  And I should say, I wasn't actually there.  You just meant people like me.  But . . .

BRUEN:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

So you really can't get a job now.  I mean you were telling me a moment ago that you can't get a job and, in part, you think it's because of the stigma of having worked for WorldCom?

BRUEN:  Well, absolutely.  I think that I was one of the top sales people in their national account sales channel, which was one of the most profitable.  And some of the deals that I did were some of the largest that WorldCom had done, and I think that may even work to my disadvantage because . . .

ABRAMS:  People think you're a scammer.

BRUEN:  Exactly.  I've done a lot of multimillion dollar deals with major companies.  And since I was pretty much that high up on the sales food chain, as far as production, people think that maybe I might have had something to do with it.

ABRAMS:  Do you feel at all sorry for Ebbers?

BRUEN:  No, I don't.  The reason being that there are a lot of people like myself - I was there for four years, but there were people who were there for 39 year and lost a lot more than I did.  And my story could be multiplied thousands and thousands of times over in terms of the number of people who have lost a lot more than me.  And the whole matter just seemed like it was something that didn't necessarily need to happen. 

The numbers were basically fraudulently pumped up to make it look like we were making let's say 13 percent quarter-over-quarter profit, when in reality it was probably just eight.  And we just looked a little better than everybody else but it wasn't really necessary.  We had to fine collection of assets and one of the best, most robust telecom networks in the world.  And Bernie Ebbers built it, so you have to give him credit for that. 

ABRAMS:  Henry, good luck in whatever you decide to pursue. 

BRUEN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Thanks for coming on the show. 

When she sentenced Ebbers to 25 years today, District Court Judge Barbara Jones said “I find that a sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of the crime.”  But it seems that isn't always the case when it came to white collar criminals.  Even 50, 20 years ago, a corporate criminal would never been serving this kind of time. 

Joining me now, University of Missouri Law Professor and Former Federal Prosecutor Frank Bowman, who has written extensively about this topic. 

Professor, thanks for coming in.  We appreciate it.

So why the disparity?  I mean, you know, we look at some of these other cases from the 80's, for example, and these guys were serving nothing in terms of time compared to what Ebbers and what Kozlowski and some of these others are going to serve.

FRANK BOWMAN, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI LAW SCHOOL:  Well, Dan, I think a couple of things happened.  The first thing that happened, of course, was the passage of the federal sentences guidelines that became effectively in 1987.  And what that did was to change the sentencing culture across the board in federal court, but particularly with respect to white collar offenders, and made it pretty clear that people would begin to serve at least some time for committing white-collar crime. 

But since that time, in the last 15, 16, 17 years, the sentences imposed under the guidelines have continued to escalate.  And that escalation really, really accelerated beginning in 2001, 2002 in the Enron period.

ABRAMS:  Well, let me give some examples here.  Wall Street Financier Ivan Boesky sentenced in '87, insider trading, got three years, served 22 months.  Junk bond king Michael Milken sentenced in '90, 10 years, served 22 months.  Charles Keating sentenced in '93 to 12 and a half years, served four and a half years before his sentence was overturned. 

But now, we've got Adelphia Founder John Rigas sentenced to 15 years for his company's collapse.  His son, Timothy Rigas, 20 years.  Today, Bernie Ebbers, 25 years.  Former Tyco Exec, Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, convicted of grand larceny and conspiracy, among other things, could be sentenced next month.  They could get 15 to 30 years. 

And now the sentences really mean the real time, right?  I mean, there's no more, at least in the federal system, and in most states, of getting off - serving a third of your time?

BOWMAN:  That's right.  One of the things that happened during the sentencing revolution, if you will, of the '70s and early '80s and through to the early '90's, was the so called truth in sentencing movement.  That is to say the notion that people who are sentenced to a particular time by the judge have to, in the federal system, serve at least 85 percent of the time that the judge announces. 

ABRAMS:  Look, you've spent a lot of time studying these sentences.  Let me ask you the bottom-line question, and that is, is it fair?  I mean, is the new system fairer than the old one?

BOWMAN:   I think it's certainly fairer, and I say this from the point of view of being a former federal white collar prosecutor for a long time.  I think it's very important that people who do serious white collar crime, particularly those who occupy high corporate positions, do real sentences, real prison time for serious white collar crime. 

On the other hand, I think one has to question whether or not, at least some of these sentences, are greater than they need to be to accomplish the very important goals of white collar sentences.  Now whether or not Mr. Ebbers represents an excess is debatable.  You have to recognize also that there's a real difference in qualitatively between the offense that he's convicted of and even those that you mentioned earlier.  None of the earlier cases that you're talking about involved the collapse of an entire corporation and the kind of spreading damage that your earlier guest talked about.

ABRAMS:  Right. 

Professor Bowman, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

BOWMAN:  My pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why the media shouldn't be treating suicide bombers with a soft touch.  I say they should be calling them what they deserve to be called, terrorist.  That's my closing argument.


ABRAMS:  My closing argument, why are many in the media still so afraid to call terrorists terrorists?  Instead, they continue to use less accurate words like insurgent, militant, rebel, or in the case of the most recent terror attack in London, just bombers.  Is there any question that “bombers” set off multiple bombs at once to instill fear?  Look it up in the dictionary.  You'll see.  Terrorist fits the bill far more accurately than insurgent, rebel or militant.  I posted on our website a closing argument from September where I compared dictionary definitions. 

The latest flap involves the BBC.  They've gone so far as to reedit their coverage of the London bombings.  In the hours afterwards, BBC's websites use the words terrorist.  That has since changed in all its links to use the word “bombers.”  Come on. 

For years the BBC has refused to use the word terrorist in its coverage of attacks in Israel.  Now that the attacks are on their home turf, they're at least offering some explanations.  BBC's head of television news released a statement today, “there's been a controversy about our use of language, particularly the question of whether the BBC banned the word terrorist.  There is no ban.  It's true the word on contentious, in some contexts on our international services, hence the recommendation that it be employed with care.  But we've used it and will continue to use the word terror, terrorism and terrorist as we did in all our flagship bulletins from Thursday.” 

But did the terrorists somehow become bombers since Thursday?  What happened in the mean time? 

The BBC isn't alone.  AP, “New York Times,” Reuters, NPR have adopted similar policies for their reporting which prevent them from relaying, I think, the news in the most accurate way possible.  Let me be clear.  I'm talking here about killers, like those in London, who target, target civilians in an effort to instill fear.  Cold-blood murders like those who killed four women in a bus bombing in Israel yesterday, or those who killed 27 in Baghdad today, most of them children, asking U.S. soldiers for candy. 

I don't care what they consider themselves.  There's got to be some objective assessment.  The killing of innocent civilians.  The targeting of innocent civilians is an act of terrorism and should be reported as such, period.  One father lost his young daughter in this August 9, 2001, restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, posted this message on a memorial website after the London bombings.  “Terror,” he said, “it is clear, is the word your audience expects you to use when the victims are your colleagues, neighbors and friends.”  Amen.

Coming up, earlier this week I said Florida Governor Jeb Bush should now apologized to Terri Schiavo's husband.  Many of you agreeing with me and others are furious.  Your e-mails coming up.


ABRAMS:  I've had my say, now it's time for your rebuttal. 

Monday in my closing argument I said it's time for Florida Governor Jeb Bush to apologize to Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, now that the autopsy supports Michael's claims about her medical condition and after an unnecessary investigation into Michael's actions, prompted by the governor, has, as expected, turned up nothing. 

Richard Roeder, (INAUDIBLE) Maryland.  “Thank you for your commentary on Jeb Bush's need to apologize.  I was beginning to think that no one on a cable news channel cared about anything except covering their own rear ends anymore.” 

Connie in St. Pete Beach, Florida.  Now that the autopsy results have been released and proved that poor Terri was brain dead and no amount of treatment would have helped her, I would think they'd feel very foolish with all the testimonials of her trying to speak and showing signs of recognition.”

From Seattle, James Stephenson.  “Thanks, as usual, for being the rare voice of reason in a sea of increasingly wacky media commentators.”

But Susie Frank in Chicago.  “Come on, you've got to be trying to hit a nerve with that outlandish request.  Are you seeking for each victim's defender to apologize to the victimizer because evidence is not sufficient?”

Susie, this was more than a case where the evidence was not sufficient.  There was no credible evidence at all that Michael Schiavo did anything wrong.  In fact, to the contrary. 

And Sandy from Florida.  “Governor Bush does not owe any apologies and as a Floridian, I'd be willing to have more of my tax dollars go for investigating the Terri Schiavo case.  In a flawed legal system, I refuse to look to lawyers and judges for all the answers.”

Finally, Michelle Wolf.  “I almost always agree with you, but this one, I just can't deal with what you're saying.  Mr. Schiavo just makes my skin crawl.”

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show. 

HARDBALL with Chris Matthews, that guy, coming up next. 

Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow. 

Remember, big ruling coming out of Aruba tomorrow to whether the only suspect in custody will be set free.

See you then.



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